The Collective Society of Liberia have signed an 11-count position statement titled, ‘The Monrovia Declaration’, aimed at corralling and utilizing every possible resource to stop piracy and other infringements on intellectual property within the Republic of Liberia. Endorsed on Thursday, February 20, the document emerged from a two-day workshop on Collective Management Enhancement held under the auspices of the Liberia Copyright Office, the Norweigan Copyright Development Program (NORCODE) and facilitated by Chief Tony Okoroji, Chairman of the Copyright Society of Nigeria.
The two-page document, with the signatures of seven representatives of the Collective Society in Liberia was witnessed by Officer in Charge of the Liberia Copyright Office, Ernest Bruce, and presented after the workshop.
Present at the signing was the chairman of the Copyright Society of Nigeria, Chief Tony Okoroji, who relished the opportunity to witness such a historical breakthrough for the creative environment in Liberia. A task force was also established to pursue the declaration to the letter.
In remarks, Mr. Ernie Bruce said, “We navigated in Norway and from the time we met in Zimbawe, the man (Chief Okoroji) challenged me. He told me, ‘My man, I am on your back. You have to change what’s going on in Liberia.’ And as you can see today it was not just talk because here he is with us today. Tony has a long history of involvement in the art and music; president of the [Nigerian] musicians union just like myself. And he has a passion in seeing to it and assuring that all of us benefit from our creativity. So he’s here with us today because we have also gotten help from the outside and are getting help from the world. And what we are trying to say in The Monrovia Declaration is that we’re putting the feet of our people, this establishment, this country, to the fire to respond to the creative society in this country from today on. What this means to all of us is that we must be responsible we must be together we must be locked arms, no matter what kind of music you do. It doesn’t matter that you do something different from somebody, I sing classical music and I also sing jazz, what matters is that we are all creative people. We need to come together because now we’re on the cusp of turning things around so that all of the musicians in this country can begin to get money when the radio stations play their music, every time they play it, we’re going to track it. Every time the hotels play it, we will track it; TV, they will all have to pay for Liberian music. That’s the way it’s happening in Nigeria and in 4 years they are collecting up to a million dollars. That’s why you see people like P-Square doing what they’re doing. It’s not magic; we need the political will in this country to change things and we’re saying we will not take it anymore.
It’s got to change. I want to say welcome to our brother, and let me give applause to him because he is an aspiration.
Copyright Society of Nigeria chief Tony Okoroji was gowned by the Liberia Collective Society and dubbed ‘Chief Jallahlon’.
In his remarks, he said, “I came to see this very historic day with my brothers and sisters. I wasn’t expecting these clothes and title, you people have made me proud. For the rest of my life I will not forget 2014. That piece of paper that you read today is in every way very historic. It is a declaration of freedom: freedom from poverty, abuse; freedom from being told you are second class. I want to thank all of you the artist, the creative people of Liberia. Pray together. Together you stand, together you will grow tall, be rich together your names will be heard across the world. But divided you will fall. Around here, some are new school, some are old school. Bruce and I were on the streets of Monrovia we went to see all of the people who are selling pirated works and selling them for nothing. But we confronted them directly and said to them stop what your doing, close your business. If you don’t close your business you’re going to end up in jail. Because what they are doing is making it impossible for business to come to your country, and for your skills and your ability to come forth. Today we make history in Monrovia. Yesterday we were on radio appealing to the President, Legislators, and ministers, Juduiciary, for Liberia to stop what they are doing because it is your right that they protect you that they provide the resources for you to boom like employers; and that fight will be won from here on. You are not second class citizens, and don’t let anybody tell you that this your country can’t change. You look at Nigeria today, you don’t hear any foreign music playing in night clubs hotels, you go to Nigeria today the artists are well dressed people. You go to Nigeria today you’ll hear our music being played at events and it can be done in Liberia too, and it will be done by you guys. We will change the environment and I promise you that we will. Who ever messes you guys up, messes me up. Anybody who thanks you thanks me. And I can assure you that whenever I can give support towards this community, I will give support. Have faith; don’t join the people who will say this will not work. Please get ut there today and when you see the people who think this can not work, please let them know there is a resolution and things are changing. The fact that we can even come here today, these two societies, work together, sign a document means change has come. From here on stop disagreeing amongst yourselves. If you are going to disagree, disagree [in private] but when you go out, go out as a powerful force together. And nobody will mess with you.
“Do not wait until everybody is on board. Keep on moving. Success has many friends once you keep moving and people see success, people who doubted will join you. In 2009 in Nigeria I had to organize a one week hunger strike for all the major artists in Nigeria because piracy was eating up our industry at a crazy rate. We gathered at the national theater in Lagos, all the big Nigerian artists , some bound their mouths and refused to eat for one week. And that got the attention of the Nigerian people, from the president and everybody on the streets knew something was happening. From that moment there was no talk anymore, it was time for war. Since then a lot has changed and I can see from Liberia that from today a lot will change. Gathering all these different people with different temperaments and different ideas, all that is a major movement because artists are not usually easy to get them to speak in one voice. But the fact that you are all here, you are now creating a taskforce people are signing declarations, this time next year will be different.